This recipe for Cendol is a refreshing, Southeast Asian iced dessert consisting of homemade pandan starch jellies and a medley of beans in coconut milk. It’s a summertime favourite that will be sure to cool you down!
I love delving into the foods that my parents ate growing up in Southeast Asia.
Even though I have yet to visit (one day, I will!), I’m just so fascinated with the variations between similar desserts.
Take for example, cendol.
Growing up, I always heard my parents refer to this icy, sweet dessert with green worm-like textured things as cendol.
But after having had a similar version at Vietnamese restaurants, I’ve come to realize that it’s basically the same dessert, except it’s got a different name.
What is cendol?
Cendol is a sweet, refreshing, iced dessert commonly found in Southeast Asia.
The dessert contains:
- green, pandan-flavoured worm-like shaped starch jelly (made with either rice flour or green bean flour)
- coconut milk
- sugar syrup known as gulu melaka, or palm sugar
Cendol is often sold as a street food by hawkers and food courts. Nowadays you can find it at dessert shops and even coffee shops.
2 different meanings
However, the name “cendol” is a little confusing.
In Java, where it is purported that cendol came from, the term cendol refers to the green worm-like shaped starch jelly.
When referring to the dessert with the green jellies, coconut milk and palm sugar, it’s known as dawet.
However, in Malaysia/Brunei, “cendol” refers to the actual dessert as a whole.
Other names it’s known by
Cendol is also known as:
- chè ba màu in Vietnam
- lot chong in Thailand
- dawet in Java
- mont let saung in Burma
Green pandan starch jellies
The green cendol jellies are the star of the dish.
They are soft in consistency with a slight chew, similar to noodles.
Pandan leaf/extract (screwpine) colours the jellies with its vibrant green hue.
Some restaurants take a shortcut and present pandan jellies made with gelatin/agar, rather than making it with traditional rice/bean flour.
Ingredients you’ll need
To make the cendol jellies, you’ll need:
- pandan leaves/extract: also known as screwpine, the blade-like leaves have an aromatic flavour and vibrant green hue
- mung bean starch: the key ingredient for cendol jellies; you can find it at Asian grocery stores, usually close to rice flour
- wheat starch: adds a silky texture to the jellies
- granulated sugar: adds a little sweetness to the jellies
- lye water: adds a chewy texture to the jellies; optional if you can’t find it
How to make the jellies
You will need:
- plenty of ice for the ice bath
- potato ricer (fitted with a disc with holes)
First blend together the pandan leaves with the water to create the pandan-infused water.
Strain the liquid from the pandan leaves using a sieve.
Next, add the pandan water to a sauce pan and add in the rest of the ingredients.
Note: if you don’t have access to pandan leaves, you can omit and use pandan extract instead. Lye water is optional, but it gives an extra chewy texture to the jellies.
Bring the mixture to a boil, and then stir over low heat until it becomes a translucent green paste.
Transfer the mixture in batches over to the potato ricer, and squeeze the paste into the ice bath.
Give the jellies a stir, and repeat with the remaining paste.
Strain the jellies and keep them chilled.
How to serve
Enjoy the cendol jellies on the same day that they’re made.
You can serve cendol (dessert) layered, in a tall glass.
However, you can present it in bowls as well (this is done in Singapore and Malaysia).
Assemble the dessert with other ingredients such as:
- red azuki beans (my personal favourite)
- yellow mung beans
- grass jelly
- palm sugar syrup
- coconut milk
How to store
You can store the cendol jellies in the fridge for up to 2 days.
The assembled cendol dessert should be eaten right away.
Did you know?
Barack Obama made it his mission to enjoy a bowl of this dessert on his Indonesian visit in 2017?
Other recipes you may like
You may enjoy these Asian desserts:
Cool, refreshing, and sweet — cendol is a great dessert for beating the summertime heat.
Let me know if you try out this refreshing summertime dessert — tag me on Instagram @siftandsimmer or leave me a comment/rating below!
For accuracy and precision in baking recipes, use weight (metric) measurements when available.
- 70 g pandan leaves if you can't find fresh or frozen pandan leaves, you can omit and use pandan extract instead
- 400 ml water
- 50 g cornstarch
- 10 g mung bean starch rice starch may be substituted
- 10 g wheat starch can omit if you can't find it
- 30 g granulated cane sugar
- ¼ tsp green pandan extract
- ¼ tsp lye water optional
- cooked red azuki beans
- cooked yellow mung beans
- grass jelly cut up
- coconut milk
- crushed ice
- 100 g palm sugar
- ¼ C water
Make the cendol:
- Prepare an ice bath by placing ice into a large bowl filled with water.
- Blend together the pandan leaves with the water. Strain the pulp from the pandan leaves and add the liquid to a sauce pan.
- Add in the cornstarch, mung bean starch, wheat starch, sugar, pandan extract and lye water (if using). Turn on the heat to high, and stir the mixture with a spatula.
- Once the mixture starts to thicken, reduce the heat to low and continue to cook until it becomes a translucent paste. Cook for another 2 more minutes.
- Remove from heat and carefully transfer the paste to a potato ricer -- working in batches, squeeze the paste through the ricer over top of the ice bath, ensuring the "cendol noodles" are submerged in the ice water.
- Leave the cendol in the ice water for 15 minutes.
- Drain the cendol and set aside in the refrigerator until ready to assemble.
Make the Sugar Syrup:
- In a small saucepan, combine the palm sugar and water and heat until thickened, about 5 minutes.
- Transfer to a clean jar and let cool.
- In a large, tall glass, layer cendol, azuki red beans, yellow mung beans, crushed ice, and drizzle with coconut milk and sugar syrup. Serve immediately.
The nutritional information provided should be considered as approximate and is not guaranteed. Please use your best judgment to ensure food is safely prepared and/or a good fit for your diet.
This article was originally published for Curious Cuisiniere.